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Reflections On Our First Year Together and an Invitation to an Open Dialogue

Dear campus community members,

I know we are all very busy as the academic year wraps up, and I want to take a moment now to offer you my deep and heartfelt appreciation for your contributions to our college community. This has been an exciting, productive year for our institution; for our faculty, staff, and students; and for me, personally. It has also been a year in which we’ve engaged with hard issues that have challenged us as a country, as a campus community, and within our own lived experiences.

When I came to Ithaca College this past July, I knew I was joining a dedicated, vibrant, and friendly community. What I didn’t know was how deeply we’d connect, and how inspired I would be by your openness, your energy, your enthusiasm, and your constructive approach to our shared work. Thank you.

We have much to reflect upon and celebrate as we close our first year together, and I want to invite you to join the senior leadership team and me for a casual, relaxed open office hour with light refreshments on Wednesday, May 2, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., in the lobby of the Campus Center. Our intention is to create dedicated space and time for our campus community to engage in an open dialogue and share our reflections about the past year and our hopes for the future. I look forward to seeing you there.

As you know, a big part of our collective effort next year will be around the development of a strategic plan for Ithaca College. It is very important that we are able to hit the ground running in the fall. To help us do that, we’ll post a strategic planning website this summer, where we will keep our community updated on the process. The site will also include a few thoughtful questions I hope you will reflect on, with a feedback mechanism so you can share your thoughts, opinions, and insights. The strategic planning process is critical to the future of our institution, and I am fully committed to developing an inclusive, transformative, and highly collaborative process that our entire community participates in and owns this coming academic year.

Because many of us will be away from campus and enjoying time with family and friends this summer, I am putting together a small team of faculty, staff, and students who are making a commitment to work over the summer to get preliminary pieces in place to help design the strategic planning process. This will help us to be able to roll up our sleeves and start working on the planning effort when we come together again as a full community in late August. If you are especially interested in being involved in the team’s work, please let me know.

Apart from these preliminary efforts for our strategic plan, I also want to give you a sense of how the college is doing as we close this academic year by highlighting some of the intentional work we’ve done to strengthen our institution and some of our collective accomplishments.

Campus Climate and Shared Governance

At the fall All College Gathering, I spoke about my intentions to get to know our college community as deeply as possible, and to address some of the primary areas where we could make strides to improve our campus climate. These two intentions overlapped significantly. The many lunches, cafecitos, open office hours, and meetings I participated in with members of our community helped me understand our goals, dreams, and challenges, which I shared at the spring All College Gathering.

A primary issue around our campus climate focuses on transparency and shared governance. We made great strides this year, including reactivating our tri-council leadership (comprised of members of our faculty, staff, and student governance councils) and increasing access to the leadership of our trustees through open sessions, one that coincided with our February board meeting and another that is planned for Friday, May 18. I hope, too, that you’ve seen the many ways in which I’ve opened communications, from my emails to my monthly blog entries.

At the start of my time at Ithaca College, the senior leadership team and I made a commitment to be intentional about our visibility and level of engagement. An engaged, talented, collaborative, and diverse team is critical to the success of any leader and any organization. This year brought three concurrent searches to fill our Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs position, our Vice President for Finance and Administration, and our Vice President and General Counsel, which have been supported by dedicated search committees strongly representing a broad range of IC faculty, staff, students, and trustees. As someone who embraces the ideals of servant leadership, I am very excited about the developing senior leadership of Ithaca College.

Early in my presidency, I also announced the President’s Seed Grant Initiative and the President’s Fellows Program, both of which emphasize our community’s commitment to breaking barriers, supporting professional development, fostering collaboration and innovation across sectors and disciplines, and cultivating talent across the college. Our seed grant projects are well under way, with 13 teams receiving funding of over $100,000. Our inaugural cohort of President’s Fellows will be announced soon. Both initiatives address focal points that resulted from the campus climate survey results.

Student Success

In every one of our schools, IC’s talented and driven students have accomplished incredible things this year, competing successfully against students nationwide for coveted academic honors and professional experiences. They also have shown themselves time and again to be deeply compassionate people who are committed to using their IC education to make the world a better place. It has been an honor to begin to get to know what makes IC students so unique.

Athletics is a significant part of the IC experience, and many of our 800+ student-athletes excelled in their sport and in the classroom. This academic year we had three individual national champions, and nine of our ten spring sports teams are now heading to their conference championships. In February, the provost’s office recognized 58 student-athletes for maintaining a high GPA, and many more of our student-athletes participate in the Leadership Academy, community service, and campus-wide activities and initiatives.

Early in the fall, I announced the separation of student affairs from academic affairs, and named Dr. Rosanna Ferro to lead the newly formed Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life. Since then, she dove into getting to know our students and our student affairs staff, and has put her diligent, thoughtful work into her initial plans to reorganize the division to enhance and strengthen student experience and success. Many of these changes were informed by the student success report and the campus climate survey results.

Building our Collective Academic Vision

I have been deeply impressed during my first year by the intellectual vibrancy and energy of the Ithaca College faculty—across the humanities, creative and performing arts, sciences, and professional disciplines. Seamlessly blending their roles as accomplished scholars and practitioners, inspiring teachers, dedicated mentors, and supportive colleagues, IC’s faculty are the heart of our academic identity, and they richly deserve the many honors they have earned as individuals and on behalf of their programs this past year.

As you know, I announced last week the hiring of Dr. La Jerne Cornish as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. Her vast experience in higher education and her focus on academic excellence will offer not only a student-centered classroom experience, but also an environment for our faculty to thrive as teachers, scholars, and mentors. I hope you attend one of the open sessions tomorrowand get to know our next provost.

I am looking forward to seeing the ways that Dr. Cornish can galvanize our talented deans and faculty in shaping a shared academic vision for the college that even further enhances IC’s impact on students and our broader world.

Enrollment

Tomorrow is a big day for Ithaca College regarding enrollment. May 1 is the deadline for students to commit to IC, and so far, more than 1,500 new students have decided to join our living and learning community for next academic year. We are incredibly excited about the talent and diversity represented in our applicant pool, and in the profile of these new students. While the college’s enrollment confirmations for next academic year have been on track with previous cycles, we remain fully aware of the challenges of escalating cost, shifting demographics, and increased competition that all institutions of higher education face. Together with the Ithaca College community, the enrollment management team has exceeded previous years’ activities, returning admission decisions and providing financial aid information earlier, and welcoming greater numbers of admitted students to campus. I’d like to take an opportunity to thank all members of our campus community who played a vital role in and gave valuable time and energy to our admissions efforts.

Financial Health

Beyond the comprehensive update about our 2018-19 budget that trustee chair Tom Grape and I shared with you in late March, I am pleased to report that the college ends the year in good fiscal health, with a strong operating performance and cash flow margins and a good financial position relative to our debt. Additionally, Janet Williams, interim vice president of finance and administration, and her team have developed a quarterly forecast process to regularly gauge the college’s financial performance, a process that involves balancing expenses to revenues, preserving our resources and endowment, and managing our strategic investments.

Constituent Relations and Philanthropy

The celebration of our 125th anniversary saw a major outpouring of support and IC pride from our campus community and from our alumni, parents, and friends. More than 4,500 members of our IC community have attended our 125 celebrations, from November’s Weekend on South Hill and my inauguration, to the “road show” events in Boston, Chicago, and New York, which featured our faculty, staff, and students. In June, Bob Iger ’73 will welcome us to the fourth and final event in Los Angeles, which is already at capacity. My deepest thanks to those within our campus community who have made these events amazing.

Our philanthropy and engagement efforts for the year are returning to the level of growth experienced in FY15. Results are up in the total number of supporters, volunteers, and event attendees, adding up to more than 17,000 individuals who engaged with the college. With one month remaining in the fiscal year, we have exceeded this year’s cash fundraising goal of $11 million. Support for the Ithaca College Annual Fund continues to trend well and we are cautiously optimistic about meeting the $1.8 million goal. This success can be attributed to the commitment by the board of trustees to making ICAF a priority.

It has been a tremendous year for Ithaca College, one that began with us celebrating our 125th anniversary and reflecting on the unique evolution of our institution. The hard work and dedication we’ve committed to IC over the course of the past academic year has positioned us well for our next 125 years. Our community possesses the bold vision, the fearless creativity, and the intellectual ferocity that is necessary to make this next chapter for Ithaca College the best yet. Let’s get started!

All my best,

Shirley M. Collado
President

Sent via email on March 30, 2018.